A staff member of a hotel who assists guests by handling the storage of luggage, taking and delivering messages, making reservations for tours and attends to the guests needs
The very best concierges’ in hotels apply for and must earn their “Golden Keys” from the Les Clefs d’Or Society. You can find these designations by looking for the golden key pins on the collars of the their uniforms. When you see the keys, you will know that the person wearing them has been deemed “…of good moral character” and that they have had a great deal of experience as a lobby concierge for at least five years in the same hotel. They must vow to serve all guests equally well and they must take written exams and have several interviews before getting to don the coveted pins.
I recently met one of New York’s finest Golden Key holders, Vladmir Kushnarenko at the Trump International Hotel at Central Park and got to know a little bit about what he does each day in his role as a concierge at one of the most exclusive luxury hotels in New York City and about Vladmir as a person.
The Daily Basics: How long have you been a concierge at Trump? When did you get your Golden Keys?
Vladmir Kushnarenko: I have been at Trump for 14 years and in the business for 22 years. I got my gold keys in 2001. I met most of the old timers, because I started when I was 19, and at the time I was one of the youngest concierges’ in the city. Chef Concierge Carlos molded me into the type of concierge I am proud to be now.
TheDB: Do you communicate with other Gold Key Concierges’ in other cities or countries?
Vladmir: I have spoken with and then met Natale Mastrantonio at the St. Regis in Rome. He is a great gentleman. He was looking for a publication that was only available in NYC and I paid for it and sent it to him. Later, when I was traveling with my wife, I stopped by his hotel at the front desk. I was dressed as a tourist, but he recognized my name by my business card and returned the favor I did for him, only better. He allowed my wife and me to stay at the St. Regis for a couple of nights and even paid for parking!
TheDB: When you are not working at the Trump where do you like to eat?
Vladmir: I usually eat in restaurants off the grid with great cuisine and ambiance. One of my favorites is called Malatesta, which is a small out of the way Italian place that is pretty cheap. I really like local Irish pubs for Guinness and simple burgers like those I enjoy at PJ Clarkes.
TheDB: What is one of your most unusual requests?
Vladmir: What struck me the most was we had to organize a birthday party for the one of our guest’s kids and we rented out the Central Park Zoo exclusively for their party for a few hours only. The child was five years old. He didn’t care about the animals at all; he was ravaging the gifts instead so it was funny. There were cocktails for the adults, and it was a beautiful day.
TheDB: Do you have outstanding days or are they pretty much the same. Do people appreciate what you do for them?
Vladmir: No particular day stands out, but there are many, many days I feel that I did well. Small things people do for me make me feel gratified. A smile by guests as the result of my labor and hugs and kisses in appreciation make my days outstanding. I know most of the regular and repeat guests – they are relationships I have built over the years. I’ve seen kids grow up from little kids to teenagers to young adults. One guest is no longer a guest anymore, but she still calls from her apartment in the city to ask me questions.
TheDB: What is the best local bar?
Vladmir: Of course we have Nougatine here at the hotel which is nice. Another really cool place is at the Hudson Hotel called Tequila Park with an open terrace that is connected to the park behind it.
TheDB: Are you a Yankees Fan or Mets Fan?
Vladmir: Neither, because I am of Russian. If I had to choose I would pick the Yankees because I live closer to their ballpark. I am a tennis player and I like to swim and ride bikes.
TheDB: Do you have any farm to table restaurants in New York City?
Vladmir: Rouge Tomate is a great! It’s at 60th between 5th and Madison. They have a nutritionist on staff who puts the menu together to make sure there is no conflict in the food and they use unique and fresh ingredients. There is a scientific approach to the menu, so there will be no stomach aches after eating there.
ABC Kitchen, one of Jean George’s restaurants uses organic and local ingredients that combine the flavors nicely.
Mas Farmhouse restaurant – not sure what it stands for, is small but cannot get anymore fresh or creative than this. It’s in the West Village.
TheDB: If I want to splurge on a great meal, what do you recommend?
Vladmir: Besides our own Jean-Georges, Per Se by Thomas Keller in the Time Warner Center is amazing. I was invited when they opened and had lunch from 11:30am to 3:00pm with wine pairings. They had flawless service and the food with small portions built one course upon the next until I was completely full and happy.
TheDB: What are the most frequently asked questions from guests?
Vladmir: Directions of course and does Mr. Trump ever visit the hotel?
TheDB: Does Mr. Trump visit the hotel? If so, how often and what does he do when he is here?
Vladmir: He interacts with Suzy the general manager of the hotel quite a bit. The projections we get is that he is a very positive person and we want to do our best to please him. We want to be our best at all times.
TheDB: Do you remember where you were on 9/11?
Vladmir: I was home in Washington Heights in a high rise and watched what happened from the roof. I did not make it into work. They told me not to come in that day. The general manager at the time was very emotional and I still do not like to talk about that day.
TheDB: Is there anything you would like to add before we close this interview?
Vladmir: I would like to say that I like my job and my position very much. I come to work with a smile and leave with a smile. I hope people like the way I do my job, because it’s more than a job to our Concierge Team. We are committed. We don’t ever call in sick. We don’t leave things undone for each other. We take responsibility for the tasks we need to do and fulfill our guests’ requests no matter what before we leave our shifts and we work as a team.
TheDB: Thank you Vladmir Kushnarenko for your time in answering these questions. You were a delight to get to know and I appreciate your profession even more listening to you and your colleagues’ work ethic. May all your guests be as cheerful to you as you are to them.